If I have learned nothing else, it is all about focus and the eyes in portraiture. Cat, humans, whoever whatever you shoot, it is sharp focus on the eyes that makes the picture. If you can do that, then you break all the rules. Or, any rules….
I run around camera in hand trying to get pictures. The cats merrily romp. The never cooperate and mostly never look in my direction. I have lots of tricks. I make strange noises. Distraction or draw their attention? You would never know. Note: all cats did not cooperate for these pictures; none were harmed.
Got eyes? Ok! Try and get fur. You need texture in the fur. Black cat? It’s near impossible. White cat? Ditto! There is so much to remember while you chase focus on the eyes. Yes, comical – a grown retired surgeon making strange noises and hand gestures while chasing after cats who could care less.
A mixture or blend used more in dentistry than in everyday language. I have an amalgam of cats, characters one and all, independent, and full of possibility. I almost never get to photograph them together. Individually, they are hard enough to capture, especially Tillie. Black cats just don’t photograph well; the fur has no texture. Lighting is the key. Look at the camera; cats pretty much never look into the lens. You must position your camera in front of the cat; it works. Sphinx like? – mysterious and not allowing people to know what you are thinking. A classic pose! Why seven cats?! Well, I got snagged by kittens – in pairs – when I in the pet store to get food. It happened three, Three, THREE!!, times. We are very lucky. No, no more kittens. Ha ha. Yeah, I can do the math too. Sadly, we lost a couple along the way.
The numbers vary. We remain a merry band. I do not have a current amalgamated image. It’s bittersweet. Oh well, time to gather the crew….
Lessons! Really! Don’t want ‘em. Don’t need ‘em. I don’t care.
Three views same flower. Two are easy. Point down. Point from the side. But, tilting the camera? It goes against the rules of making your “horizon” wonky! Don’t do it! Oh! Yeah! Sure! The only thing I will add is that it is counter intuitive. Counter intuitive!? That’s for me!
Posing a cat – ?! Huh?! No silly, you don’t pose a cat. They don’t pose, either. You put the camera lens in front of their eyes. Yup! Like salting a bird’s tail. Make sense? When you try it, all sorts of things happen… some good. Or, a goofy pose. Poor Elle! Sorry, kitty. Willow has hooded eyes and requires flash to show his pearly greens. Big, wide open, eyes helps a lot.
Then, there are those cats, who refuse to cooperate. They never look in the camera. They never let me close in front of their face. I am so happy to get the eyes that distractions like the plastic in front is ok! Yes, sometimes, you just gotta settle for what is there.
A portrait starts with the eyes. My cats are cooperative in illustrating my point. Hooded eyes need a bit of flash. Black cats are particularly difficult. Their black fur is hard to highlight and contrast. And, who figured dust would show too! Then again, cat nip shows, as well. Focus on the eyes is a key component. Gazing directly into the lens is helpful. For cats, put the camera in front of the cat; don’t wait for them to look your way. The icicle is a non sequitur. And, Colleen’s initials are CAT, once upon a time when she was a maiden.
Focus – eyes. If the eyes are in focus, just about anything else is forgiven in a portrait. The image is an edit discard if the eyes are not focused. If you stand back far enough everything looks in focus. Up close – focus is critical to the success of an image. Have I said focus is important? In a family of ten it’s important to be focused. Ha ha! I did a go around the house and got everyone’s eyes, mine included. (I chose to be upside down.) I suppose this is photo lesson 101. Focus!
Arresting! A proper photo exposure can stop you in your tracks. Black cats require more exposure adjustment. I suppose I will be using more flash than less with Tillie. I continue to learn and improve. As any other work in progress, you learn, and then build upon what you know. Better? yes, than ever. I hope Tillie makes it through probation. She remains a crazy cat. Right side up, or, upside down, at least, I can say I am a better photographer.
Ok. Be impressed. Even a blind squirrel gets a nut (sometimes). Yes! My dive buddy saw the eggs. She did not have a lens to photograph them. The other two of us did. We shot. I was singularly unimpressed. The eggs had been laid on a white PVC pipe. The guardian parents was buzzing us. The current was moving me about and the visibility was near zero. It was murky! I closed my eyes, adjusted my settings, and pointed and shot. I could not get a high high mage shot. But the image magnified shows eggs and eyes. At least that is my story. And, I’m sticking with it. This made my day.
What I Shot
There are questions that have no safe answer. Try, “Do I look fat in this dress, honey?” Try to answer, ‘Yes (you are),” or “No (you were, but not now).” Get my drift? I realize that there are a lot of people in my audience who are not attuned to American humor. In fact maybe I don’t have humor at all. Do you see the glass “half empty?” or “half full?”
I shot a moose once. (Yes, it’s obvious. I photographed it.) And someone in the audience asked me if I had really “shot” it. Seriously, he was very impressed (that I shot it)! No, dopey! I don’t shoot animals. I photograph, but I do not shoot. Actually, I shoot whatever is there. Get it? Well, try to understand that I am not working with a full deck and American slang humor can sail right over your head. Sorry.
As long as we are on the subject (vaguely) I was called out by my daughter. “Did you play with the puffer?” Caught! She immediately knew that the puffer was only puffed because I had provoked it. Smart cookie, that kid of mine. I deny that any fish were injured in the making of this photo. However, she contends that I have shortened its life by scaring it. Go figure!
With the very long preamble, I ask, “Do you like your photo portrait with direct or indirect gaze?” Subtle, but definitely different, it’s a matter of choice or taste. For me, I like a direct view straight on. But it’s definitely disconcerting to look straight away into someone’s eyes. It’s much more intimate. Hey! It’s a cat. Lulu’s my cat at the moment I don’t exactly ask her to look at me. I try to get her to look in my general direction and then get my camera into her face. She’s tolerant. She doesn’t get it. But she is occasionally in one place long enough for me to get a couple shots. The portrait is a success based on dead on focus on the eyes. After that composition and the rest are up to you. There are so many bad pics out there. Try harder. And it is affirmative, “a good fish photo has the eye looking toward you!” Mooses too!